Crushing On-site Developer Interviews

Feb 2020 • 2 min read

Attending and conducting interviews is a key part of the hiring process for most jobs. For software engineers/developers, the interview process is usually broken down into phases, e.g. phone screen -> coding challenge/test -> on-site interview -> offer.

In the past year and a half, I’ve been interviewed and also interviewed people on behalf of my company. In that time, I’ve noticed some patterns conducting on-site interviews and I’d like to give brief advice based on them.

The scenario is, your interviewer is a developer/engineer on the team you’re applying to join, and you completed a challenge online and submitted your code. So let’s get into it.

  1. Relax. You won’t be able to communicate well if you’re nervous. Always remember that being nervous puts you at a disadvantage and shake it. If the problem is you think you’re going to embarrass yourself, in the words of Kobe Bryant, get over yourself. Even if you do embarrass yourself, there’s no shame in trying and failing. Relax
  2. Try to explain your answers. Ideally you should speak more than your interviewers. Own the meeting. This doesn’t mean you should go off talking about unrelated stuff, keep all of it relevant and easy to understand.
  3. Ask questions. When you ask a question (e.g. about whether possible approach is feasible), it makes the person more human and in turn relaxes you. It also removes a lot of the burden on you, as it’s more likely it becomes a joint effort. Most interviewers want to see whether they can work with you so this can go a long way.
  4. If you can, express your idea with a brief sketch. It makes you more memorable and leaves nothing to chance in terms of your points being passed across properly.
  5. If you have any improvements to your solution, mention them. These are the stuff you thought would be overkill, or didn’t have enough time to implement. That might be what your interviewer is looking for. Ideally, you should contact your interviewer to ask questions about how deep you should go whilst solving the challenge, if you have the time.
  6. Remember to give your interviewer your back story, even if they don’t ask for it. This way you control their impression of you, emphasize your strengths, and make yourself more memorable. You can’t assume that your interviewer has read your resume extensively and has done background checks, so he/she knows you built NodeJS. It’s more likely that he/she only skimmed through because 200 people applied.
  7. If you take a different approach from conventional best practice with good cause, be sure to put that in your documentation. The person reviewing your code might not understand that approach and might even screen you out at that point because of that.
  8. If you get there more than 30 minutes early, try to find a place to hang out before entering. Arriving for your interview an hour before the time can be awkward as the interviewer might not know what to do with you till he/she is ready.
  9. Smile.
  10. Use deodorant.

Of course this list isn’t exhaustive, but nailing most of them would increase your chances, boost your confidence and land you better jobs.

I hope this has been helpful.

Stay happy and ṣe jẹ́jẹ́.

Hi! My name is Opeyemi. I am an SRE that cares about Observability, Performance and Dogs. You can learn more about me or send me a message on Twitter.

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